Emer Mhic an Fhaili: My childhood was blessed – we ran around 'na cnoic' every day speaking the Gaeilge

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Emer Mhic an Fhaili from Belfast, presenter of BBC Gaeilge series, Bog Amach

Emer Mhic an Fhaili, presenter of house-hunting show Bog Amach
Emer Mhic an Fhaili, presenter of house-hunting show Bog Amach

Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I'm a bad sleeper and convince myself early morning minutes are mine to savour. I give my daughter Niamh a lift to work a few times a week – she's a coffee connoisseur so I'm loving our coffee trips in the morning, it's just the two of us and we giggle and gossip. At the weekend, I'm up and at it for my Saturday date with my mamaí.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I'm a big brunch fan rather than breakfast and, at work, it's grab-and-go, if anything.


Coláiste Feirste's vegetable soup or salad.

Evening meal?

Chicken curry is a favourite.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

In theory... every few months I decide I'm going to take vitamin C, magnesium or whatever's trendy that day, but when I review the sell-by-date, several years later, I bin them. I love fruit and I drink lots of sparkling water.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

Yes... I diet daily and start a brand new one every Monday. When I have stuck to diets, I've done well, but chocolate, wine and sweeties are such good friends to me, I go back to them with much gusto.


Weekend treat?

Gin (often a nightly treat, too...).


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

In the past, various Belfast fitness gurus whipped me into fantastic shape which was great for the endorphins, as well. My son, Joe, has recently started PTing trí mheán na Gaeilge, but really, is there any need for a burpee? My knees think not. You know, I'm not a conformist, and there's an awful lot of Lycra people out there walking, running and ‘gyming', and seeing as I don't suit Lycra, I reckon I'm better off out of it. Mentally – the sea, the sea, the sea...


Best tip for everyday fitness?

My 100-year-old neighbour, who's amazing, advises that everyone needs to sit less and move more. I've become a little obsessed with that in the house and I'm getting the step count up by cleaning or pontificating while on the move. We have a precious granddaughter, Fiadh, who lives across the road, and our 100-year-old neighbour must have also whispered in her ear because she refuses to sit, therefore we are constantly running after her or waltzing with her in the kitchen, just as I did with my own babies. When I'm not refusing to move, I actually love walking.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

No, I was not a fan of the compulsory St Louise's brown knickers or the pommel horse. My childhood was blessed – we ran around ‘na cnoic' (we called them hills, they were in fact, fields) behind Shaw's Road all day, every day, speaking the Gaeilge, so that was PE for me.


Teetotal or tipple?

I'm a committed tippler.


Stairs or lift?

Stairs – only because lifts make me nauseous.


What book are you currently reading?

Maggie O'Farrell's captivating The Marriage Portrait. I'm listening to novels on audible, another beautiful gift from Bog Amach, as I got to listen on the road. I was listening to Colm Tóibín's Nora Webster when we were filming around Enniscorthy.


Best Netflix?

The Office, Schitt's Creek, Motherland, After Life and Stranger Things. I also loved The Queen's Gambit and Inventing Anna.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

That I was perfectly content being locked up at home with my husband... my children, not so much.


Any new skills or hobbies?

Rediscovering reading again has illuminated my days. Alexa and I go from room-to-room and I go through the to-do list while listening for hours. I also love interiors and if any friends are doing any work, I like to get involved.


How do you relax?

See answer five – we have a Friday Night Club in our house and I love to sit around the kitchen with family, friends and the Greenan babies.


What are your goals for the rest of 2023?

I've gone down to a four-day week for the first time in 30 years of full-time work, as the goal going forward is to spend time with the people I love the most. Now I get an extra day with my husband, Seán, and my mamaí, Kate.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I'm a night owl – I come alive at night and never go to bed before midnight. If I go to bed before 11pm, I have massive Fomo (Fear of missing out). I don't sleep well so probably don't get enough sleep.


Biggest gripe or regret?

Not travelling enough. Maybe when I retire?


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Yes, my priorities changed when Sean was diagnosed with PCA (an atypical form of Alzheimer's) in 2019.


Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event – changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Yes, again – after Sean's diagnosis it made me think about this. He is an extremely active and accomplished sportsman, a gifted martial artist with many accolades, including a Sixth Dan Black Belt in Wado Ryu Karate. He is an Irish teacher and activist and losing his language is breaking his heart. He still has a twinkle in his eye, though, and the sharpest humour, so buíochas le Dia for that.

:: Emer Mhic an Fhaili presents Bog Amach, helping six home-hunters find their perfect place to settle down. The six-part series, made by Strident Media for BBC Gaeilge and RTE, with support from Northern Ireland Screen's Irish Language Broadcast Fund, continues on Mondays at 10pm on BBC2 Northern Ireland and can also be viewed on the BBC iPlayer